The Telegraph
Thursday , January 9 , 2014
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Now, earn a masters degree from prison
- Birsa jail setting up IGNOU initiative for interested inmates, no tuition fees required

Jailbirds at Birsa Munda Central Prison can now pursue postgraduate studies from within the guarded walls.

The move comes after Indira Gandhi National Open University, which already runs educational programmes for inmates till the undergraduate level, decided to set up a study-cum-examination centre for masters programmes in arts and commerce streams.

Prison superintendent D. K. Pradhan said that the move was aimed at reforming convicted and undertrial prisoners.

“They (IGNOU) approached us with this proposal on December 21, last year. Initially, we were hesitant because we were not sure if anyone would be interested. But, officials from IGNOU said they would set up the study centre even if a minimum of five inmates were willing to pursue the postgraduate course. Fortunately, around half a dozen inmates, who graduated this year, expressed their desire for studying further,” said Pradhan.

The superintendent added that they were currently working out the logistics to implement the plan.

“From next year, inmates will be able to pursue their dreams of higher studies. We also have plans to hold competitive and fellowship exams, but they are at an initial stage,” he added.

Besides IGNOU, National Open Schooling (NOS) runs educational programmes for inmates at Birsa jail. While IGNOU currently offers intermediate and undergraduate courses, NOS runs matric and intermediate programmes.

Pradhan said the prison authorities had exempted inmates from paying tuition and exam fees.

“Fee exemption was brought into effect around two years back for IGNOU students. For their NOS counterparts, it was done in 2012. For coaching, we have a couple of retired teachers who visit the prison on request. We have also identified some well-read elderly inmates. This apart, free study and resource materials are provided,” he added.

Birsa prison is home to over 2,500 prisoners. Although the percentage of inmates inclined towards education is not very encouraging, officials feel the move will contribute substantially in reforming prisoners in times to come.

In December last year, as many as 70 inmates appeared from jail for various IGNOU exams, which ended on 31.

“Six inmates appeared for their B.A. exams, while 64 took the intermediate test. Among the intermediate examinees 10 were women. Once the masters programme begins, the numbers will increase,” said the jail superintendent.

This apart, a slew of vocational courses are in the offing. “Couple of months back, we began electrical and electronics training with the help of Art of Living camp. A batch of 30 inmates has already been groomed into skilled electricians. We are identifying interested prisoners, who would be released in four-five months’ time, so that once they move out, they can use their skills and earn their livelihood,” he said.

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